DVD/CD Review: Reunion 1 and 2 (Gaither Vocal Band)

Rating: 5 stars (of 5) (both volumes)

Available from: Basically everywhere.

Song list: Volume 1: He Came Down To My Level; Your First Day In Heaven; New Wine; Rumormill; Can’t Stop Talking About Him; A Few Good Men; Born Again; Satisfied; I Bowed On My Knees; He Touched Me; Heartbreak Ridge And New Hope Road; Knowing You’ll Be There; Home, Where I Belong; No Other Name But Jesus; There Is A River; Gentle Shepherd; Let Freedom Ring; Loving God, Loving Each Other.

Volume 2: Passin’ The Faith Along; Temporary Home; Dream On; I’ll Meet You In The Morning; The Really Big News; Home; Build An Ark; O Love That Will Not Let Me Go; When The Rains Come; The Love Of God; New Point Of View; Give Up; When I Cry; I Walked Today Where Jesus Walks; Find Us Faithful; I’m Free; Make It Real; Mary, Did You Know?; Oh! What A Time.

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Ever since Wes Hampton broke the story last summer that the Gaither Vocal Band alumni would be getting together to record a reunion video, this project has been one of the most anticipated Gaither releases in years.

It does not disappoint.

Some of the greatest vocal talent—not only in Christian music, but in music period—has gone through the Vocal Band over the last (nearly) three decades. These videos offer both an opportunity to hear voices together that haven’t harmonized for decades, and to hear some of these same vocal powerhouses in entirely new configurations.

The highlights are too many to list. At least every other song was greeted with a standing ovation, and it wasn’t just the performers being polite to one another. It was just that good.

Steve Green shines, both in a quartet setting for the first time in years and in one of his big ’80s hits, “Find us Faithful.” Wes Hampton’s delight at just being there, let alone getting the chance to perform with his vocal heroes, is contagious enough that it would be hard for the viewer not to catch a taste of the moment. The personal testimonies, especially when Michael English expressed that he thought he would never again have the chance to sing in a quartet setting again, are touching.

The cinematography is excellent. Though Gaither has used widescreen for several of his videos, this is the first one where it is more a plus than a minus. It is used to greatest effect in the close-ups, where, for example, the singer with the solo can be framed off-center but looking towards the center of the frame. The minus of widescreen closeups is where a singer goes for a high note and ducks out of the frame—but these awkward moments were far fewer than in earlier projects. For the most part, action shots were framed with an appropriately wide zoom.

The only thing that could have made this video any better would have been more of the same. Specifically, it would have been nice to see another song (each) featuring Steve Green, Wes Hampton, and Marsh Hall. And one concept Gaither did touch on—different Vocal Band iterations singing different verses of a song—would have been fascinating to have seen more fully developed. Suppose, for example, on “Passin’ the Faith Along,” the original Gaither Vocal Band sang one verse, and the (then) current Vocal Band, which redid the song in 2004, took the second verse. (It would have been nice to have the two missing members, Terry Franklin and Jonathan Pierce, present, but the talent level of the remaining members in the room was so high that their presence isn’t conspicuous.) But with two DVDs / CDs, thirty-seven songs (plus two bonus tracks), and four hours of music, even mentioning more of the same sounds a little silly.

This project is good enough that it’s hardly surprising that yesterday’s headline (literally) [EDIT, 11/8/10: The link is broken and has been removed] is that the video debuted at #1 on the Billboard Music Videos chart and (in a double first for the group) the two volumes of the CD not only hit #1 and #2 but debuted in the top two spots.

Gaither has done some good video projects in his day, but this will easily go down as one of the best. Or, just maybe, the best.